Could taking your vitamins ease your pain? It might if you're deficient in vitamin D.  If you live north of San Francisco or Richmond, VA, have dark-colored skin, are diligent about using sunscreen or are getting a little older, you might not be getting enough vitamin D. New studies report that if you suffer from chronic pain, fibromyalgia, migraines, rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis, vitamin D supplementation might be effective for reducing or even eliminating your pain.

Vitamin D comes in a variety of forms. Vitamin D2 is synthesized by plants and vitamin D3 is synthesized by our skin in response to sunlight. According to the National Institutes of Health, vitamin D helps us maintain normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus and aids in the absorption of calcium to form and maintain strong bones. Research also suggests vitamin D may provide protection from osteoporosis, hypertension (high blood pressure), cancer, and several autoimmune disease.

Over the last two decades, people have become more concerned about the sun's damaging rays causing skin cancer and aging. We've become more sedentary and spend less time working outdoors. Additionally, most foods aren't rich enough in vitamin D to take care of all our body's needs. The result is a generation of adults who are vitamin D deficient.

Recently, multiple studies have linked vitamin D deficiency with muscle weakness, musculoskeletal pain, immunodeficiency disorders, fibromyalgia syndrome, migraines and other chronic pain disorders.  While reports of these conditions are going up, other studies show that Vitamin D levels are going down. A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2009 showed that vitamin D levels have plummeted among all U.S. ages, races, and ethnic groups over the past two decades.

Now, new studies suggest that vitamin D supplementation may help patients reduce pain, strengthen bones and protect them from future deterioration. While it's near impossible to get enough vitamin D from the sun and food, it's easy to take vitamins. Vitamin D supplements are available over-the-counter, without a prescription, are generally well tolerated and inexpensive. 


Spending a little time in the sun is a great way to start upgrading your body's vitamin D supply. Depending on how fair or dark your skin is, anywhere from a few minutes to 15 or 20 minutes (without sunscreen) may be enough.  For many people though, it'll take supplementation in a pill-form to do the trick.  Nutritionists usually advise adults to take between 800-1000 IU per day but people who are Vitamin D deficient might require as much as 2000 IU daily. 

Talk with your doctor about whether Vitamin D might be effective for treating your pain condition and how much you can safely take. 


Archives of Internal Medicine

Johns Hopkins Institute

The Bone-Protecting Benefits of Vitamin D

National Institutes of Health

Vitamin D fact sheet